Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Free Mind from shoddy Mindsets

Tomorrow is Independence Day. It is raining on and off in my city, from past three days. Needless to say, it has left roads in a horrible state. No, my intention is not to write about the improper drainage system, inefficiency of governance and freedom with which obnoxious nexus between contractors and ‘sarkari babus’ , openly and brazenly, misuse the exchequer’s money. A lot has been written about all that by many people.
Well, While inching through these water logged roads last evening, few things worried me deeply about where we were heading as society. At the same time, few memories of earlier read works came flashing to mind that I could relate to with the situation. It was shocking to see that even in this situation people were honking horns and were trying to overtake from any side. Independence had given them this right to do freely whatever they thought was in best of their interest.
Balraj Sahni a famous Hindi actor, writer and thinker who belonged to rare class of intellectual actors, once narrated this incident in an excellent convocation address at JNU in 1972 . He recounted “I was going by bus from Rawalpindi to Kashmir with my family to enjoy the summer vacation. Half-way through we were halted because a big chunk of the road had been swept away by a landslide caused by rain the previous night. We joined the long queues of buses and cars on either side of the landside. Impatiently we waited for the road to clear. It was a difficult job for the P.W.D. and it took some days before they could cut a passage through. During all this time the passengers and the drivers of vehicles made a difficult situation even more difficult by their impatience and constant demonstration. Even the villagers nearby got fed up with the high-handed behavior of the city-walas.
One morning the supervisor declared the road open. The green- flag was waved to the drivers. But we saw a strange sight. No driver was willing to be the first to cross. They just stood and stared at each other from either side. No doubt the road was a make-shift one and even dangerous.  A mountain on one side, and a deep gorge and the river below, both were forbidding. The engineer in-charge had made a careful inspection and had opened the road with a full sense of responsibility. Still, nobody was prepared to trust his judgment, although these same people till yesterday, had accused him and his department of laziness and incompetence. Half an hour passed by in dumb silence. Nobody moved. Suddenly we saw a small green sports car approaching. An Englishman was driving it; sitting all by himself. He was a bit surprised to see so many parked vehicles and the crowd there. I was rather conspicuous, wearing my smart jacket and trousers. "What's happened?" he asked me.
I told him the whole story. He laughed loudly, blew the horn and went straight ahead, crossing the dangerous portion without the least hesitation.
And now the pendulum swung the other way. Everybody was so eager to cross that they got into each other's way and created a new-confusion. This hurry to crossover before others from both sides created chaos and road was blocked again for few hours. The noise of hundreds of engines and hundreds of horns was unbearable. That day I saw with my own eyes the difference in attitudes between a man brought up in a free country and a man brought up in an enslaved one. A free man has the power to think, decide, and act for himself. But the slave loses that power. He always borrows his thinking from others, wavers in his decisions, and more often than not only takes the trodden path 
Chitto jetha bhayashunyo (Where the mind is without fear) , written by Gurudeb Rabindranath Tagore is among one of the most quoted poems . It was written before India's independence and every line of it represents Tagore's vision of free-thinking, aware, undivided and vibrant India.
"Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
Where words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action --
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake."

Independence has given us not only freedom of speech but also a power to think and act. While the former has been used quite eloquently the other two have somehow remained dormant beneath pity shallowness and self interest. How horrifying it is to see the madness of educated and financially well off individuals to somehow get ahead of others without realizing that they were blocking the traffic coming from other side and were only adding to miseries of self and others. If there is a vegetable seller pushing his cart hard through the rain water and from comfort of my car I blow horn urging him to speed up then I definitely should not count myself in human category .As Mahatma Gandhi said “It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.”
To quote Stephen R. Covey “You have the freedom to choose your actions, you don't have the freedom to choose the consequences of your actions”. Why have we become so passive and so indifferent towards consequences of our actions? Why such insensitivity? Why such nonchalance? Why are we not able to accept or reject thoughts in accordance with our own will ? Why someone has to impose,dictate or tell us about consequences of cutting the branch on which we are sitting? Despite all the peppy doses of education, why has our conscience gone into hibernation mode?
The biggest faculty of human existence is mind and the virtue of free will.Every human has four endowments- self awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom. The power to choose, to respond, to change. There is fire in all of us and our capability constructive and destructive extreme is infinite but it is for each individual on the basis of his reasoning and ethics to decide how he wants to use the fire within him. This independence day should not we pledge to rekindle that spark and tell our leaders that we love our nation and it is high time that they as well……


  1. A very good read and it sums up everything very well. What we see first-hand is the inherent danger of inertia during times of crisis. There’s been a long history, right?!

    But instead of pausing and reflecting … and perhaps taking steps to undo at least some of the self-inflicted damage on the nation, on society and our psyche, most folks are too busy feathering their own nests or fishing in troubled waters. But lets not lose hope :)

    PS: Robi Thakur’s vision of a glorious India is ever-inspiring and the original Bangla version (Chitto Jetha Bhoyshunyo) – is even more stirring. Sadly, most folks recite it, read it or write it – mechanically; very few have endeavoured to walk that path. But then, lets do what we can :)

    1. Knowledge, thought, and action are qualities of a free rational human that justify man's existence , no doubt that freedom is the essential requirement of man’s mind but freedom does not mean an utter loss of civic sense .

      Gurudeb's works need no phrases of praise , you are privileged to have read the original bangla works because translations always diminishes the beauty of thought and just conveys the meaning

  2. exactly this happens in almost every part of our country..
    65 years of "freedom" but somewhere deep down we are still chained with backwardness and inward thinking...

    our rationale and scruples is biased...
    no wonder that foreigner acted freely in that way.... difference in attitude is the sole reason.
    As Robert Frost says.. Freedom lies in being bold... but sadly the kind of "boldness" we display is very timid and cheap.

    Awesome read Sir

    1. Yes Jyoti, you are right "boldness" that is displayed is very timid , cheap and generally not for a right cause . A free thinking,rational mind is what we need to develop and our education system and parenting should indeed be aimed at this.


Your viewpoint will definitely give it wider perspective


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